Delivering another blow to what’s left of former New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s legacy, the state’s new governor acknowledged on her first day in office that New York has had nearly 12,000 more deaths from COVID-19 than Cuomo told the public.
“The public deserves a clear, honest picture of what’s happening. And that’s whether it’s good or bad, they need to know the truth. And that’s how we restore confidence,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said on NPR.
New York is now reporting that nearly 55,400 people have died of COVID-19 in the state based on death certificate data submitted to the CDC, up from about 43,400 that Cuomo had reported to the public as of Monday, his last day in office.
“We’re now releasing more data than had been released before publicly, so people know the nursing home deaths and the hospital deaths are consistent with what’s being displayed by the CDC,” Hochul said Wednesday on MSNBC.
“There’s a lot of things that weren’t happening and I’m going to make them happen. Transparency will be the hallmark of my administration.”
Cuomo’s lawyer, Rita Glavin, and his campaign staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Democrat, once widely acclaimed for his leadership during the COVID-19 outbreak, resigned in the face of an impeachment drive after being accused of sexually harassing at least 11 women, allegations he has disputed.
Tally under Cuomo excluded certain deaths
The Associated Press first reported in July on the large discrepancy between the fatality numbers publicized by the Cuomo administration and numbers the state was reporting to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The count used by Cuomo in his media briefings only included laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported through a state system that collects data from hospitals, nursing homes and adult care facilities.
That meant the tally excluded people who died at home, hospice, in state prisons or at state-run homes for people living with disabilities. It also excluded people who likely died of COVID-19 but never got a positive test to confirm the diagnosis.
That lower number favoured by the Cuomo administration still appeared in the daily update put out by Hochul’s office Tuesday, but with an explanation about why it was an incomplete count.
State now using CDC numbers: Hochul
“There are presumed and confirmed deaths. People should know both,” Hochul told NPR Wednesday.
“Also, as of yesterday, we’re using CDC numbers, which will be consistent. And so there’s no opportunity for us to mask those numbers, nor do I want to mask those numbers.”
During the spring of 2020, when New York was the deadliest hot spot in the U.S., Cuomo emerged as a hero of the pandemic in the eyes of many Americans for his daily PowerPoint briefings and stern but reassuring language. He won an international Emmy and wrote a book on leadership in a crisis.
But Cuomo’s critics had long charged that he was manipulating coronavirus statistics to burnish his image as a pandemic leader.
Federal prosecutors previously launched a probe examining his administration’s handling of data around deaths among nursing home patients.
The state, under Cuomo, had minimized its toll of nursing home residents’ deaths by excluding all patients who died after being transferred to hospitals.
Cuomo used those lower numbers last year to erroneously claim that New York was seeing a much smaller percentage of nursing home residents dying of COVID-19 than other states.
The state assembly judiciary committee has also been investigating that issue as part of a wide-ranging impeachment probe, and is weighing whether to include those findings in a public report.
This week, in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal, Cuomo’s Emmy was revoked. And the publisher of his book has said it will no longer print hardcover copies and will not come out with a paperback edition.
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